Father Boniface Hardin

Dateline: Thu 22 Mar 2012

The former head of Martin University and a much-loved Catholic priest who led many civil rights marches in this city, as well as protests over neighborhoods torn apart by the interstates built in Indy in the 60s/70s, is in hospice. He suffered a third stroke recently and is not doing well, according to friends who have visited him.

In my career as a reporter, two people I interviewed stood out for expressing an amazing sense of gratitude and humility: one was Robert Coles, the Harvard psychiatrist and convert to Christianity who wrote "The Story of Ruby Bridges," about the little girl who integrated a white school in 1960 in New Orleans, (and other books about faith, children and well-being).

The other is Father Boniface, who sat with me for a few hours in his office at Martin University in the late 1980s or early 1990s and talked about his boyhood in Louisville, where the movie theaters would not let black children sit on the main floor but regulated all blacks to the balcony. He told many other stories of segregation and racial struggle n the Heartland. Far from being bitter or angry, he was gracious and kind and light-hearted.

Both of these men did something wonderful at the end of our talks. (Coles was on the phone, since he lives in Massachusetts).

They each thanked me, sincerely and very humbly -- as if I had done them some big service or favor.

Obviously, many people say "thank you" to a journalist at the conclusion of a chat; it's common courtesty.

But these guys beat me to the punch and seemed genuinely delighted that someone was interested enough in them to want to hear their stories and perspectives. It made an impression, since they are both prominent and at the time were in demand as speakers, leaders, etc.

Father Hardin....a good man and even a great man. Peace.

 

Comments

George Stuteville [unverified] said:

This is disconcerting news, Ruthie.

I am a 1989 graduate of Martin University and for the two years I attended, I had the privilege of getting to know Boniface. I attended classes when the "campus" was up on College Ave., the outgrowth of a sickle cell clinic outreach program. I followed when the college moved to the former St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church and school.

It was one of the deepest pleasures in my life when Boniface handed me my diploma. My class was one of the last ones in which he taught two core classes that every student had to take. The first was Logic. Boniface had a great concern that people were becoming less able to think independently for themselves. The other class was one he designed himself. It was called Ethnotherapy. It was a deep dive into racism and it was not limited to our own nation's affliction. I will never forget that on our first class, he handed out Cowrie shells as an emblem of the slave trade. The tiny shells were the currency used by West Africa tribal chiefs when they sold their captives to Europeans. It was a class that offered hard and painful lessons about the brutality we routinely inflict on each other and there were few sessions that didn't leave at least one of us in tears.

I remember one class particularly when we were talking about the effects of racism on us as individuals and how it created anger and rage.

I asked Boniface what his reaction was to his own rage. He told me, his voice huge in the small room, that Martin University was the expression of his rage over the racism he had experienced.

But Boniface, as you pointed out, was not defined by rage, but rather by love, great humor, limitless creativity, charisma, a huge faith and about every other positive human trait I could list.

I think that one of his crowning achievements -- and one that goes so unnoticed by the city -- is the creation of his "Gathertorium."

Attending Martin University changed me and my opinions in profound ways. To my dying day, I am grateful for the time I spent there -- often rushing from The Star city room to get to classes on time.

2012-03-22 13:20:06

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

When he laughs, his beard shakes and his body becomes a giant exclamation point for sheer joy. A solid, solid citizen.

May his tribe multiply.

2012-03-22 20:34:48

John Sherman [unverified] said:

Ruth, thank you for writing this. Father Hardin has had such a strong, positive influence on so many people. It has been such a joy to have known him.

2012-03-22 21:54:12

hendy [Member] said:

Last summer, he married my daughter and son in law. There are a group of people that you're relatively assured, should there be a Heaven, will be invited in immediately. He's one.

2012-03-23 08:59:06

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

So true Hendy.

And a converse group that, when I get there, if THEY are there, i'm gonna be pissed.

Starting with 20 gutless state senators...Eric Miller's acolytes.

2012-03-23 18:57:51

Terry [unverified] said:

From the St. Thomas Aquinas parish e-mail chain Saturday evening:

"Fr. Boniface Harding passed away this morning. Please keep him and his family in your prayers. Details about his funeral will be forthcoming."

2012-03-24 22:43:08

Terry [unverified] said:

STA e-mail, 6:39 p.m. Saturday, March 24
Amos Brown tweet shortly before 7, followed by local TV stations. Star tweet 9 p.m., Star online story, 10:16 p.m.

Somehow my parish secretary, on her day off, seems to get the word out before everyone else. I remember his many visits to St. Thomas. Father Boniface was both captivating and gentle.

2012-03-24 22:58:45

hendy [Member] said:

http://www.indystar.com/article/20120325/LOCAL18/303250009/Rev-Boniface-Hardin-founder-Martin-University-dies-78?odyssey=tab|topnews|text|IndyStar.com is the obituary.

2012-03-25 08:51:59

farmgirl [unverified] said:

I'm sure that was your interview they quoted w/o attribution this a.m.

2012-03-25 09:03:02

George Stuteville [unverified] said:

Rest in peace Father Boniface Hardin. Your life mattered so much to so many. Thank you for your courage.

2012-03-26 09:40:21

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2012-03-26 17:22:36

hendy [Member] said:

Obit in IndyStar today; events Wed, Thur, and burial Friday at St Meinrad.

2012-03-27 08:12:41

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